Lovin' time at Coon Hollow Farm

Lovin' time at Coon Hollow Farm
Our Olde English "Babydoll" Sheep and their lambs

Monday, July 18, 2016

A swarm and a touch of luck

The other day I happened up to the hives and saw this cluster of bees hanging on the side of one of the hives. Having been 8 years a beekeeper I knew this was possibly a small swarm. I quickly ran to get a nuc box and gently brushed them into the box all while looking for the queen but didn't see her.

Yesterday morning I suited up while it was still cool and checked the nuc bees. They were still clustered so I shooked them loose and their she was! She was the queen from the recent hive I had added some bees from an observation hive I take care of. I used the newspaper method and it appeared they took their time chewing through the newspaper and created a queen instead! While checking the other hive for their new queen, I went through all the frames and could not find her. While closing up she landed on the top screen. I quickly flipped it and put her into the hive. So luck was on my side on two levels! What was becoming a discouraging season has quickly changed to a better season with 3 hives growing strong!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Cutting and curing soap

A week or more ago I made a fabulous batch of Milk, Honey and Oatmeal soap. The smell was amazing in the house! After making a batch of soap you need it to sit in the mold until it is ready to be removed. It takes at least 24 hours for the saponification process to happen, which is the chemical reaction and neutralization of the fats and acids.

One thing you look for is separation of the soap from the wall of the mold.

I then invert my mold and watch as it gently begins to separate, gently pressing down to allow it to release. Rushing the process can make the soap break so let it go gently and slow.

If all goes right, your soap will slide right out. I cover the counter with wax paper. This helps in clean up and makes less mess.

Here we are, a nicely cured block of soap ready to be cut.

When using any kind of large mold, measure the top, sides and bottom. Weigh your soap batch. This batch is 8 pounds. It is 15" by 10" in diameter and the height of my soap is approx. 2 inches give or take.

I cut it into 2" by 4" bars giving me 30 bars. You can calculate how much you spent on supplies to estimate what you can charge.

Not all your bars will be precise unless you have a soap cutting board. I prefer to cut it by eye. This batch netted me anywhere from close to 3 1/2 to 4 oz bars.

I placed them on a screen drying rack that I acquired a while back. I love to get cool things that are purposeful.

The bars were trimmed up and smoothed and will sit a few more weeks for additional drying and curing.

The bars are layered allowing air to get to them so they can dry nicely.

I place a couple towels over them to keep dust and anything else in this crazy house from them. As I write this, I have a batch in the kitchen underway with one of my favorite scents I invented, Citrus and Honeysuckle!!!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

I made a pillow!!!

If any of you were on the edge of your seat wondering what I made with the roving and the size 50 needles, it was a pillow! The camera didn't pick up the beautiful browns and whites mixed in to the roving.

I am going through my fiber stash and have so many bags of "Babydoll" sheep wool. It is so soft but short fibers that don't spin well. I just don't like working with it until now! I used full roving and knitted a pillow. I then made a pillow form with some material I have as well as some fiber fill. I cast on 8 stitches across and did a basic stockinette stitch for 10 rows and then ran one pearl stich at the seam. Each stitch takes anywhere from 2 1/2 to 3 inches of roving!  It is unbelievably soft!!!!

So now I am inspired, I have added some alpaca roving to the "Babydoll" roving and am knitting another pillow. This is even softer!!!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

What am I doing?

What do you think I am going to do with this "Babydoll" roving?

And what am I going to make with these 35 or 50 needles? Stay tuned to see!!!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Yippee Skippy! We have eggs and larvae!

During a much overdue inspection of our hives with the new queens, low and behold we have eggs, larvae and a few capped larvaes!!! This is a good sign that our hives are happy and are beginning to thrive once again!

If you look into some of the cells, the white wormy looking things are baby bees! The hive that had the unbred queen is a little behind but I did see signs of eggs and they are moving along as well. So good tales today from the apiary!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Well hello there!

The baby chicks are growing and doing well. Out of 20 we have 18, healthy growing chickens. I have had my eye on this one for the past couple of weeks. Where I bought them they were guaranteed to be hens, with 4 roosters already the back yard gets deafening. That was when I looked at this guy and said "hello there"! We got another rooster, I am sure of it!

This is "him" on the left and a young pullet Buff Orphington on the right.

Just look at the comparison of the feet from a pullet right next to him!

So for now to give him a name, he will look over his flock and grow to protect his girls!

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Queens are free!

A check on the Queens on Saturday netted one out and doing well but the second hive she was no where to be found! She was out of her cage but gone! I ripped that hive apart from top to bottom and no queen. I was not sure what happened to her, did they kill her, did something kill her or was she not mated and went out for a breeding flight? The answer must have been the last one because when I checked back today there she was!

I marked both queens but got a little overzealous! The new queen cage I bought has smaller holes and is very hard to get down to the queens back. One I almost blinded with paint in her eye! So we can only hope from here that these queens are productive and we can have a successful honeybee season!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Queen recheck...

These bees are going to be the death of me! I went in early this morning for a recheck on the status on the release of our queens and nothing! They are still in the cages, the workers have done little to nothing to get them out so it was time to give them a little help.

With a piece of heavy wire this time, I cleaned the sugar plug out and waited for them to emerge. I waited and waited, but the workers cleaned up the hole even better and were going in and out trying to coax them out.

I did catch this wonderful moment, the workers feeding the queen thru the cage. These will more than likely be her attendants when she does finally emerge from her cage. Another check in the morning will have me breaking them open if they do not come out by then. Come on girls! You need to get busy!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Checking on the Queens

Today is the 4th day since the installation of our two new queens. Two days ago I removed the tape to allow them to chew the sugar blocking the hole which will release the queen. The first hive showed some activity but the second hive didn't even begin.

Taking a paper clip end...

I pushed some holes into the sugar loosing it up and making it a little easier for them to get them out. They are showing positive interest in their new queens. I witnessed them feeding them through the cage which is a very positive sign. No aggressive behavior which is also a very positive sign!
Thank you for reading my blog which also serves as a journal of the goings on here on the farm!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Fiber Prep: Making Punis

While exploring different ways to prep fiber, I came across some techniques on fiber prep, making punis! Punis are more compact than rolags and seem to spin a bit better. Now you can pull out your drum carder or you can take out your hand carders to make these simple punis. You can do this on a trip, during a time you will be sitting idle for a while or just in your spare time. I choose some angora rabbit wool (on the left from Tawny) and some white alpaca (on the right) to blend.

Alternately layer your fiber and wool, catching it on the teeth of your carder.

Begin to card holding the one in your left hand that has the wool handle up (If you are left handed you would do it opposite). The other carder will be handle down and begin  to brush.

Soon you will have fiber on both carders all aligned in the same direction.

I was actually at the Colonial Home I work at for an Open House when I took these photos during a rain storm, that explains my floral dress! I am sitting very unlady like straddled on a bench.
So at this point you will place the handle of the carders between your legs to hold them, take two very long knitting needles or dowels...

Place one in front of your fiber and the second one behind it. I tried many techniques, viewed some different videos, looked up different sites and gathered many altering opinions and found this worked for me. At this point begin to roll, not too tight towards you.

As I roll I pull ever so slightly separating some of the fibers, elongating them just a bit until I get to the end. You will find that the top will be somewhat "hooked" with the fibers wrapped around the top teeth. I pull it off and brush them back ever so slightly, straightening them out.

And there you go, some punis ready for spinning!

Friday, June 10, 2016

The tale of two queens

Today I went to Bee Commerce in Newtown, CT and purchased these two queens along with some attendants. With one hive struggling with a weak queen and the other split that has refused to raise a queen it was time to bring in some queens. This is something I have never had to do before. In all my years of beekeeping the bees have always come through with raising their own queens. This year however, the bees just have a mind of their own!

So I installed both queens into each hive. As suggested I taped the top so they don't get them out of the queen cage too fast. I will check in on them in a couple of days and see how things are going. These bees always keep you on your toes!!!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Spinning black mohair goodness

Last year I bought this fleece at a Fiber Festival I was a vendor at. I had bought a fleece from the same person the year before and it was fabulous and priced very fairly too!

The fleece bag was close to 5 pounds so away I spun...

and spun and spun...

and spun!!!

So far it has netted 3 skeins with a lot more on the wheel and a bunch more in the bag, I am going to spin some a little thicker for some weaving projects I have in mind. Just a beautiful fleece made into some gorgeous yarn!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

An Apiary split

This year our bee yard seems to be split down the middle. The three hives on the left (above) are thriving and doing so well. The hive on the right is what we call "The Beast". An amazing hard working queen with her workers to match. The hive on the farthest left is Kisha's hive and it is a split from "The Beast". It is strong and thriving with a laying queen and working workers too!

And then we have the hives on the right. The hive on the left was over wintered and continues to struggle. The others are splits from "The Beast" that are chugging along like the engine that could! Each year, beekeeping brings it's certain challenges, this year appears to be one of them!